So what is an atmospheric river?

We’ve had rain. Lots of it. After multiple years of drought I’m doing a happy dance.

Puddles under the canopy of our huge oak tree thrill me. We had been told that the more than 100-year old tree was showing early signs of stress and that for the first time in the over forty years that we’ve lived here we needed to begin watering it–very hard to do with  mandated water restrictions. I imagine she is drinking deeply with our water tables experiencing some overdue relief.

The “scientific” term cited last year to the off-shore weather pattern contributing to the persistent drought condition was —THE BLOB,  warmer than average ocean temperatures off the coast of the western United States. The “blob” was so strong it off-set any benefit we anticipated from El Niño.

I’ll leave it up to you if you’d like to read more about how this “ridiculously resilient ridge”  contributed to the blob– HERE.

So why is there so much rain? Today I read that we are reaping the precipitation benefit from three atmospheric rivers .

“Atmospheric River” is this year’s overused meteorological term.  In past rainier-than-typical seasons credit was given to a  “Pineapple Express.”  If I were a California meteorologist I’d throw out a new term every now and then, too,  if only to spice things up from the “dry and sunny” monotony.

We aren’t building arks yet in Southern California, but parts of Northern California and Oregon have experienced some flooding and greater problems from too much sudden rain.

After seeing the dead and dying Sequoias this past fall in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks I am hopeful the rain is producing some benefit.

img_7467I also thought about these young adventurers caught in the act of playing and foraging within Sequoia National Park.

We were so lucky to see two black bears ambling just a few feet from the paved viewing area. Once again I find myself singing the praises of the National Parks System with the dedication to preserving wild landscapes. I hope a very wet winter replenishes the area for all the animals that live within the park.

This past fall we found the entire Yosemite Valley  very dry. By comparison, take a look at this.

And there has been more rain since this video was taken.

I recently read an article that actually proposed the theory that with global weather patterns in flux California’s future could be “relieved” of its dry patterns and instead experience yearly flooding.  Last year the prediction was that we may not see rain for several more years.

I think we’ll just enjoy this winter with the surprise of rain and simply wait to see what happens next!











52 thoughts on “So what is an atmospheric river?

    1. I’m eager to get back to the Parks, too, Andrew, but I’m not sure I’m prepared for snow. I will have to wait. Predictions are we’re going to have several more days of rain beginning tomorrow night. We are trying to get used to “wet dog” smell! 🙂

    1. Gerlinde, I was so distressed by what I saw when we visited in the fall that I haven’t been able to forget it! I suppose that one season of rain isn’t going to change the story very much, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a few seasons like this and at least restored the underground aquifers. I would hope that healthier trees could put up some defense against the beetle. It must be so hard to have your cabin in the wonderful Sierras and see the dying trees.

    1. I am definitely singing, Nancy! It’s been so nice to see even the house washed clean! With mandated restrictions on water usage it’s been ages since we’ve even hosed anything down. I am very happy to report that it’s raining again tonight. 🙂

  1. “Pineapple Express” has been a phrase in Oregon weather for as long as I’ve been here and as long as Laura has been here and she was born here (always reminding me that I’ll never be a native. The kids do too. Rascals.) We have a Pineapple Express going over the top of us right now, which is great because the persistent ice is melting. We’ll be in California for a little while in February. Can’t wait to wander around and look at what water does.

    1. It interests me a great deal to learn that you’re also more familiar with the Pineapple Express, Jim! I didn’t actually know for sure if that had been more a “local” term or one more widely recognized. But I haven’t heard it once in this latest series of storms. We have another storm coming tonight that is supposed to last at least through Monday and the build-up to expect more rain than we’ve yet seen is a little intimidating, although I admit I’m kind of excited about it. Perhaps I’d feel differently if I lived in the foothills! I think you’ll notice a big difference in the landscape when you come in February. His are greening and everything is washed clean! I’ll be interested, if you have time, in seeing what you’ve observed!

  2. Your last line or two hits the nail on the head. We are so incredibly short-sighted and incapable of understanding that weather patterns aren’t established over two or three years. Or five or ten. Weather patterns are decades and centuries in the making. It rains a lot for a couple of years — we think we’ll be dealing with floods as far as the eye can see. Suddenly, it stops raining for a few years — we will have droughts from here to eternity.

    Meanwhile, glaciers have been shrinking for something like 200 or 300 years.

    1. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment, km. I have been very interested in weather patterns and do a fair amount of reading that informs me, but I admit I still have a very limited understanding! What I have learned through the several years of drought is that we have to adapt to our local climates. I think my concern for California is that although we have always had droughts, and many very long, we have an increasing population and are currently experiencing a building boom. Conservation doesn’t seem to be a very high priority. I suppose we’ll see what happens. One rainy season doesn’t undo the five years before! I appreciate you stopping by!

      1. You’re right, of course. Our growing population has outpaced our ability or willingness to take the steps necessary to address the water needs of such a population. I consider myself an environmentalist, but I also think we need more storage and wiser water use policies that preserve as much water for the dry times as is reasonable and practical. We need to get over our “need” to have beautiful green lawns and other water-wasting luxuries. There are a lot of things we could be doing, but we seem to be too spoiled and unwilling to expend the political and financial capital to make a real change.

    1. I thought later that I probably should have attributed credit to the person who took the video in Yosemite. It’s labeled, I think, but a friend asked me today if I’d been in Yosemite during the storm! I love knowing there’s that much water and snow in Yosemite, but I’m not adventurous enough to see it up close! I’ll go again in early summer. 🙂

  3. I love the bear photos!
    I’m so glad you folks down south are finally getting some of the rain you have so badly needed! We up here have finally broken out of our deep freeze. It’s 45 degrees at the moment, which feels positively balmy after weeks of 25 degrees and being encased in ice. This year I’ll be more grateful than usual for the arrival of spring. As for long-term trends, I suspect we’ll see greater seasonal extremes of cold/warm wet/dry as the planet and each region seeks its new “normal.” We’ll see…

    1. I am a little nervous about the new “normals,” Lori, but I do recognize we’ll have to adapt, and although I’m skilled at hand-wringing, I can’t seem to effectively worry us into any weather balance. For now, I’m enjoying the rain immensely. And I’m sure freezing temperatures put a big dent in your ability to train! I hope your warming trend remains constant. I will admit, though, that 45 degrees sounds “freezing” to me. LOL!

  4. So glad you are all getting rain out there! Our weather has been wonky too. Last year we had one snow but it was 31 inches. Not much so far this year and this is a rainy week — weather too mild for snow. It’s all cycles. Feast or famine. I much prefer feast.

    1. We surely are enjoying the rain, Kate. It’s been positively inconvenient there’s been so much of it! Ha! The mild weather in your parts seems so unusual. I have a good friend in Massachusetts who has been telling me the same! I think that for most of us even a more pleasant climate, if it signals a change we can’t explain, feels a little off! I agree with you about feasting, and right now, we are enjoying one. 🙂

  5. I am so pleased you finally got rain – and so much too! The video is wonderful. And the puddles in your garden are unbelievable. Let’s hope your oak tree soaks it all up and is restored for a while!

    1. Thank you so much Colleen. I know you sincerely care about our drought frustrations! I haven’t heard a lot about flooding, so I think in general we’re faring well. I honestly have no memory of a season with this much rain, and the contrast to the past few years is just amazing. I’m so happy for our trees! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Otto. The feeling that we’ve achieved a little balance is thrilling to me! I’m doing my best not to think too much about the future and instead to simply enjoy this season and take the rain as a sign of hope. 🙂

  6. What a wonderful sight to see! I would be doing a happy dance as well, Debra. I can almost feel your elation over the rain (and those cubs 🙂 )
    It is so hard to witness the devastation of trees from Bark Beetle. Here, we’ve lost so many ash trees from the Emerald Ash Borer, and some years ago, we all grieved the loss of American Elms (especially the town I lived in, Elmhurst). Nature, and man, can be so cruel, but, I’m with you; rejoice in the rain and renewal.

    1. Renewal is the perfect word, Penny! We’ve had more days of consecutive rain over several weeks (beginning in early December) than I can even remember. It’s just wonderful and feels very hopeful. I often become so narrowly focused on the problems associated with not enough rain and I lose sight of the fact that there are many other reasons why trees can be infested with devastating pests. Losing trees for any reason is very hard to accept. This wonderfully rainy season probably won’t undo five years of drought but it has to help! 🙂

  7. Several years ago, we landscaped our yard with succulents and other low-water plants, but even they are much happier with the recent rain. I say, “Bring it on!” I also have been thinking about the trees we saw in Yosemite last fall that were dying or under great stress and hope that this most recent rain and snow will help them. But, one wet year does not erase years of drought so we need to continue our rain dances.

    1. You’re certainly correct that one rainy season doesn’t undo the previous five years of drought, but it sure does feel hopeful, doesn’t it? We’ve been changing our landscape, too, and I keep thinking of the roses I “gave up on” and removed last year. They would have been so happy! LOL! But I know that the decision to be “water wise” has been a good one and watching the succulents drink in deeply is a lovely sight as well. Let’s keep up those rain dances, yes! 🙂

  8. California loves extremes … well, at least extremes in the weather. 😉 … Whenever I’ve seen reports of the rains and the tons of snow in the higher elevations, I think of you … and this will cause vegetation to flourish … then dry during the drought … and bring on those fires! What a cycle!!!

    1. You’re right about extremes, Frank. In October we’ll be on fire! But for now, we have another storm coming in tonight that is supposed to carry through Monday. I can’t remember the last time it rained like this, and that includes a decade or more before the drought was even a consideration. If it simply helps us replenish some ground water I’ll continue to be very pleased!

  9. Debra – I am so pleased that you finally have some rain! And thank you for sharing the joy with us 🙂 Lets hope this is the first of regular rainy seasons… No More Drought!

    1. Thank you very much, Martin. The extremes between this much rain and the drought are fascinating. The best part of it may be that no one seemed to anticipate its coming, as opposed to prior seasons when we were “promised” drought relief and then we waited in vain. I guess we just don’t know everything! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Charlie! Yes, indeed! We have had two or three days of rain every week since before Christmas! That’s almost unheard of anytime in Los Angeles. It’s been inconvenient and cut into my social life a little bit! LOL! But I’m not complaining! 🙂

  10. Weather patterns this past 6 months have been totally weird in Europe, Debbie. I honestly don’t know if scientists can make accurate predictions despite all the research. In some ways I’m glad. I like a bit of variety 🙂 In the long run, our planet has it all in hand and we’re just along for the ride. Enjoy it while you can 🙂

  11. Happy to hear your heart is singing for such great news at least for now. Water is such a precious resource, our little ones especially need to understand the importance of this as it is not unlimited.

  12. Rain looks ever so beautiful! What a relief! It looks like weather is not going to be predictable in the near future… Thank you for the video link.

  13. Love the rain and your break from drought, Debra. I also love bears and their being able to be free in nature and protected from man’s “bad” quality of shooting wild game.

    1. We had so much rain and the snowpack is so heavy this year that now they’re predicting flooding as the snow melts! One extreme to the next!

      1. It is a never ending natural concern. Just praying for no more disasters! Texas just had a huge tornado or storm which looked like a location was “bombed.”

    1. I sure have a lot of gaps in my knowledge when it comes to understanding weather patterns. I’m definitely enjoying the end of the drought, however, whether I understand or not. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and leaving a friendly comment!

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